Open for business since the early 1990s this family run tapas restaurant has now expanded to four venues across London serving a wealth of traditional and authentic dishes from all parts of Spain.
The immediate surroundings are somewhat disheartening as this little find is located in the nucleus of countless office blocks, buildings and major insurance and banking companies. The restaurant is actually positioned in an office building on the ground floor and once you descend the stairs you will feel somewhat surprised to find such a vibrant and colourful interior. Peach walls with intricate mosaic detailing around the edges coupled with coloured glass lighting ensures an atmospheric and bright canvas. Meanwhile the attraction of live music from the accompanied band is an inspirational touch with all the classic Latino sounds and rhythms to accompany your meal.
No doubt with more people inside the ambiance would be a lot livelier as the music is the predominate force. However, a combination of City workers, romantic bright young things and office folk with their Blackberries (or should that be Crackberries?) blend in to establish a relaxed and laid back environment. The staff are attentive and welcoming without being too overpowering. With regulars waltzing in through the door this is no doubt an institution with some customers who work in the area. Service is quick and generally good.
With a choice of some 50 dishes or more you will lose count and most probably track of time as you steer yourself through the menu. Prices on the whole range from around £3 to £6 for tapas dishes and £10 to £12 for the more complex paella dishes. The range is impressive with plenty of local cuisine thrown in for good measure from Levante and Catalunia to Iberico and Extremadura. The Albondigas a la Barcelonesa are their signature meatballs made from 100% beef and served with chunky peppers and a homemade tomato sauce. The beef is on the chewy side, you might even say gristly, and the quality of meat is not as good on the palate as in some other tapas joints. The thick sauce is well cooked though and bursting with rich, sweet tomatoes and a couple of chunky peppers. Meanwhile, the Pollo Al Ajillo are small chicken wings that have been fried off with a mix of garlic, white wine and added spices. The flavours work well to lift the overall flavour of the meat but it’s a little too dry and sits on the plate waiting for some garlic mayo or something similar. The skin is dry and looks a little limp on its own with the meat itself quite tough and nowhere near as moist and soft as you would imagine.
The Cordero Al Limon is one of the better executed dishes. The lamb is tender and moist with a subtle infusion of garlic which leaves a mellow aftertaste. There’s also a wedge of lemon to coat the meat if you want to give it an extra zing. From the fish section (including calamari, squid, anchovies and whitebait) is the Bunuelos de Bacalao, priced at around a fiver. This is an authentic Catalonian tapas dish, little fried balls of salt cod that are crispy, smooth and fresh with the batter working well to coat the fish. This dish comes with some uninspiring iceberg lettuce just sits around on the plate.
The tortilla Espanola (or Spanish omelette) has a more unusual appearance to the chunkier slices that you will see in other tapas restaurants. This time round a flatter and rounder version is presented and is disappointing due to under-seasoning and lack of freshness - the omelette is firm and rubbery. Moving on, the Patatas allioli is an overall good effort and a more than generous portion: rustic potato cubes are deep fried and served with a well of traditional Catalan mayonnaise that is creamy if a touch artificial.
The Tacos de Berenjenas are crispy cubes of fried aubergine whilst the Zarangollo is crispy as well: a combination of courgette and onions fried in olive oil. There is a distinct sponge-like texture to the fried vegetables thanks to the egg-like batter.
There’s simply not enough room to talk about the wealth of cured hams and cheeses on offer including Queso Las Mil Ovejas, a type of ewe’s milk from Valdefuentes and La Serena and Queso Ibores, which blends raw milk from a variety of different goats from the regions of Serrana and Retinta. Desserts feature a good selection of traditional favorites including a creamy and simple cinnamon rice pudding with a hint of spice, Crema Catalana, a classic creme brulee with rich eggy textures and a perfectly glazed top and Tarta di Santiago, a classic almond tart which has a soft and buttery crust if a little bland in flavour. There is also a good array of ice creams and refreshing citrus sorbets on offer.
There are a couple of house whites and reds all priced around £11 to £16. The Bonal Macabeo 2006 from Valdepenas is a more than drinkable wine. This white is pale yellow in complexion with hints of cassis and pears. There are at least over 20 reds and whites with some Torres numbers fighting for contention as well as a few roses and cavas to mix up the party. As with all good Spanish establishments there’s a wealth of sherries while teas and coffees provide interesting alternatives like chocolate la bomba, hot chocolate with a dash of brandy, and carajillo, a black coffee with anisette or brandy.
The Last Word
You may be blown away by the sheer choice on offer at Barcelona Tapas. However, the cuisine is no more than solid, if a little underwhelming, especially if you were to compare it to other well known tapas eateries in the capital.